If you find that title to be even slightly blasphemous, click here then tell me later about how I’m doomed forever.
As I was saying, church is scary.
Now, everybody who knows me well enough knows that I’m always looking for a reason not to go to church. Whether it’s reciting arguments made by Eddie Griffin or just good old fashioned feigned sickness, I’m always giving reasons for why I prefer to spend Sundays watching South Park. Last Sunday, however, I found myself in a strange new church because of reasons that were out of my control. I’ve had some pretty weird experiences in church before, but this was by far the worst.
It all started with racist guards at the gate. I didn’t have my hat on and there are certain parts of my hair that curl in a way that made them think I was carrying grenades to blow the faithful to kingdom come (ha-ha! Church pun). After I got through the harassment at the gate – I was the only one they asked for ID – I got into the church compound. The church building was more impressive than I had anticipated. I was standing outside the building with my sister and we were both considering whether or not we should turn around and run back home or go inside. It was during this time that a man came up to us and started talking. The conversation went something like this:
Churcher: Hi there
My mind: Oh no! Human interaction!
Churcher: Are you youth?
My mind: I’m wearing a sweatshirt, jeans and sneakers. She’s wearing a T-shirt, jeans and sneakers. What do you think?
Churcher: I haven’t seen you before
Sister: It’s our first time here
My mind: I haven’t seen you before either
Churcher: Are you first-timers?
Sister: Yeah…I just said that
My mind: What is wrong with you?
The man went on asking questions that had obvious answers which I replied with more grunts and sarcasm in my head. He also kept using the word youth throughout the conversation like he was trying to convince us and himself that he’s still young.
There was also this interesting bit of conversation:
Churcher: You missed the youth service by a couple of minutes. It starts at 7:15 a.m. I hope you can make it next Sunday
Sister: Yeah. We’ll be here
My mind: Ha! You’ll never see me again
He led us into the church building through some small door in a corner somewhere that I hadn’t noticed before, which is weird because that door was fairly large and I’d been staring in that direction for a while.
Me: I hadn’t noticed that door before
Sister: I hadn’t checked
My mind: IT’S A TRAP!
We got inside the church and found ourselves at a cornered section of the church. It seemed like an extension that wasn’t originally meant to seat people. It was dark, with unpainted walls and plastic chairs that were arranged in no visible order. It was a far cry from the rest of the building which was well-lit, with large hardwood pews. There was a very slight inclination on the floor so that nobody would obscure another person’s view. Where I was seated, there was no inclination. I would have been thankful because I like being obscured when it’s not a concert, except everybody in that section was too short to obscure me. I could have slumped in my seat, but there was nobody seated in front of me anyway, despite me being about three rows behind (see ‘arranged in no visible order’ above). And, oh yes, I was facing the entire choir. I’ve watched Sister Act, so you can understand my fear that the choir would burst into a song about me.
When the singing did happen, I started wishing it had been about me instead because then I’d know what they were singing about. The song just started from nowhere. The tune was familiar, but the words were not. In fact, the lyrics were indecipherable. I couldn’t make out what language they were in, and I’m multilingual, yo! Everybody but me was singing along. Even my sister knew the song. So I just stood there looking at the floor, fully aware of the stares I was getting from the choir. Then we began this phase in the service where people were sitting, standing, singing and reciting lines that I had never heard of. Creeds (they called one of them a creed), oaths and what sounded like incantations to summon a dark lord from the depths of hell itself.
Everybody else: Amazing grace, how sweet the sound…and now we call upon the son of Azathoth. Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn (probably).
My mind: WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?!
Some of you may think I’m going overboard. I say you were not there with me at the time. You did not see the sign language interpreter. I dare you to look at a sign language interpreter sign a really slow song and not be terrified. What happened next made me even more afraid. The man in a robe at the front took out a large cup with something red in it. Then I started noticing things. There were TV screens all over the church which said something about wine and bread. I hadn’t seen them before and just like that door we came in through, might have been part of a trap. The routine with the people singing, chanting and whatnot continued as the people at the front drank the ‘wine’. Immediately after they drank the ‘wine’, they kneeled down and mouthed some words then sat back down with their eyes closed. I have been to several churches my whole life and this is something I’ve never seen happen before.
Then we were invited to join. I started planning my escape right then. An old woman walked up to us just as I was straightening my jeans:
Churcher 2: Are you communicants?
Sister: Yes we are
Me: [grunts and pants]
My mind: YOU’LL NEVER TAKE ME ALIVE!
I took the woman’s question to be a warning to me not to try and run away, because what kind of person asks a question like that without secretly meaning something sinister by it? No one, that’s who. So I decided to stay and fight – I checked to see if my teeth were still sharp enough to bite people.
For ethical reasons (I’m so totally afraid right now), I’ll not say whether I had the ‘wine’ and ‘bread’. I’ll skip to the part where we left the ground floor to go up to the balcony where it was less crowded and I’d feel safer. Also, I could text easier. On the way up there, I met with an old schoolmate of mine which was coincidental because just like me, he does not live anywhere near where that church is located. Too coincidental.
Old schoolmate: ‘sup?
My mind: YOU’LL NEVER TAKE ME ALIVE!
I got to the balcony, took out my phone and texted someone about church. She thought my fear was funny so I put the phone away and just tried to clear my head. But even up there I couldn’t catch a break. There were still some people who could see me and they chose to stare. I had to get into unplanned staring contests with some of them so they could stop gawking so hard.
A couple of minutes later, a lady handed my sister and I leaflets. Then my sister made an observation we should both have made ages before – the language being used in the sermon had changed. That meant the first service was done and we could leave.
But wait, there’s more.
As we were leaving, my sister ran into two of her friends almost as soon as we left the church building
Friend 1, 2 & Sister: OHMIGOSHOHMIGOSHOHMIGOSH!
My mind: MORE HUMAN CONTACT! WHERE ARE ALL YOU PEOPLE COMING FROM?
They got through their annoying noisemaking then started sensible communication
Sister: This is my brother
Friend 1 & 2: Hi
My mind: Say something cool. Don’t mess this up
My mind: You idiot
Friend 1: I can’t believe he’s your brother
Sister: Why? Don’t we look alike?
My mind: It must be the because I left the house today with these bloodshot eyes
Friend 1: I don’t know. It’s just…
My mind: Should have brought the hat
The conversation went on for a few more minutes before the girls parted ways promising to text each other that night. That day, people congratulated me on going to church. They didn’t realize that my going to church actually gave me even more reason to never return there – I’m scared for my life. Whether or not I’m overstating things like Courage the Cowardly Dog is not important.
I was restless all the way back home. The whole way back I was thinking about how much I just wanted to take off my shoes, put my hat back on and watch South Park.
Warning: That incantation up there is an actual one – I didn’t make it up – and it might summon a dark lord. I do not claim any responsibility for the 3000 years of darkness that shall be visited upon the earth in the event that the incantation works.